Barry Bonds indicted on 4 perjury counts, obstruction of justice
The perjury case against former Giants star Barry Bonds is built on documents seized in a federal raid on a Burlingame steroids lab and positive drug test results indicating that baseball’s all-time home run king used steroids, court records show.
Bonds, perhaps the greatest hitter of his generation, was indicted Thursday on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. He is accused of lying under oath in December 2003 when he told the grand jury that investigated the BALCO steroid ring that he had never used banned drugs.
The 43-year-old free-agent outfielder faces arraignment Dec. 7 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, months of legal proceedings – and a federal prison term of about 30 months if he is convicted at trial, legal experts said.
In the indictment, federal prosecutors said Bonds lied when he denied using a long list of banned drugs, including steroids, testosterone, human growth hormone and “the clear,” the undetectable designer steroid marketed by BALCO.
Bonds also lied when he testified that his longtime personal trainer, Greg Anderson, had never injected him with drugs, the government contended. The trainer, who was imprisoned for contempt of court after he refused to testify against Bonds, was freed Thursday night, hours after Bonds’ indictment was unsealed.
To buttress its perjury case, the government has what prosecutors have called a “mountain of evidence” seized in a raid on the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in September 2003 – documents including doping calendars allegedly showing Bonds’ drug regimen and payment records of drug purchases.
In addition, the indictment says investigators have obtained “positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for Bonds.”
The indictment gave no details. But a source familiar with the case said BALCO founder Victor Conte had arranged repeated private steroid tests for Bonds to track the effects of his drug regimen. In the BALCO raid, the government seized those test reports, said the source, who asked not to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
Since the BALCO scandal began to unfold, Bonds has adamantly denied using steroids. He told the grand jury he used only flaxseed oil and an arthritis balm, not BALCO’s designer drugs. In August, when he broke Hank Aaron’s record to become baseball’s all-time home run leader, Bonds declared that his record was “not tainted at all.”
On Thursday, his lawyer, Michael Rains, vowed to fight the charges and predicted Bonds would be exonerated at trial.
Bonds’ indictment roiled a sport that has been struggling to put an end to what’s been called its “steroid era.” Mostly in response to exposes about BALCO, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has ratcheted up the sport’s drug-testing programs and hired a former U.S. senator, George Mitchell, to investigate steroid use in the game.
On Thursday, Selig issued a statement saying he was watching the Bonds case carefully, but he gave no indication what action he might take. Mitchell’s report is supposed to be released by the end of the year.
The indictment also marked the end of a yearlong government effort to force Anderson, Bonds’ trainer and boyhood friend, to testify about Bonds and drugs. Anderson pleaded guilty to a steroid conspiracy charge in the BALCO case and was jailed for three months.
Then, last year, the government subpoenaed Anderson to testify before the grand jury investigating Bonds for perjury. Anderson refused and was imprisoned for contempt of court. Thursday night, more than a year after he went to prison, a federal judge ordered him freed. His lawyer, Mark Geragos, said Anderson had not cooperated with the government.
Bonds won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award an unprecedented seven times – five times as a Giant and twice as a young player with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He led the Giants to the pennant and the World Series in 2002. On Aug. 7, in his 15th year as a Giant, he broke Aaron’s mark of 755 career home runs, perhaps the most hallowed record in all sports.
Bonds finished the season with 762 home runs. His contract expired in 2007, and the Giants refused to offer him a new one. He has said he hopes to sign with another team and play in 2008.
Bonds is the most famous baseball star to be accused of a crime since 1989, when Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose, holder of the lifetime record for most hits, was banned from the game and indicted for tax evasion in a gambling scandal. Rose served five months in federal prison.
Former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent called the prospect of Bonds’ indictment “a terrific blow to the game,” more troubling than the Rose scandal.
Rose was “one guy betting on baseball,” Vincent told The Chronicle last year, while Bonds’ indictment reflects a problem that strikes “right at the heart and the gut of baseball” – the sudden rise in the use of steroids and human growth hormone.
Vincent likened the Bonds case to the worst scandal in baseball history: the 1919 “Black Sox” affair, in which Chicago White Sox hitting star “Shoeless Joe” Jackson and seven teammates were indicted on charges of conspiring with gamblers to fix the World Series. The players were acquitted at trial, but baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a former judge who had been hired to clean up the game, banned them all for life anyway.
Selig cannot act so boldly, experts said. If Selig were to respond to the indictment by banning Bonds from the game, baseball’s powerful players union almost certainly would object, and an arbitrator might well reinstate him, said baseball labor historian Robert Burk, a professor at Muskingum College in Ohio. In the modern era, baseball players accused of crimes have been allowed to continue playing until their cases are resolved, he said.
Bonds set off down the path that led to his indictment during the 1998 season, when St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire was winning acclaim for breaking the single-season home-run record then held by Roger Maris.
According to Bonds’ former girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, and other people who know him, Bonds became jealous of the attention paid to McGwire, whom he regarded as an inferior player and a steroid user. In the offseason, Bonds began training with Anderson, a friend from the San Carlos Little League.
According to documents seized by investigators, Anderson began supplying the Giants star with steroids and human growth hormone. Through the drug use and weight training, Bonds became far more muscular and transformed himself into the greatest slugger of his era.
After the 2000 season, Anderson took Bonds to BALCO and introduced him to Conte, who at the time was providing undetectable steroids to Olympic athletes so they could beat drug tests. After baseball began steroid testing in 2003, Anderson began supplying an undetectable steroid to Bonds to ensure that he would pass baseball’s new drug tests, the trainer said on a tape recording made without his knowledge.
By then, BALCO was the target of a drug probe led by a dogged investigator from the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal division, agent Jeff Novitzky, a former basketball player at San Jose State. In September 2003, he led raids on BALCO and Anderson’s home in Burlingame, taking away significant evidence of drug use by a long list of elite athletes – including Bonds.
After the raid, more than 30 athletes with ties to BALCO were subpoenaed before a federal grand jury, where they were granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for truthful testimony about BALCO and drugs.
Five baseball players – including New York Yankees star Jason Giambi – acknowledged using banned BALCO drugs obtained from Anderson. A sixth, outfielder Gary Sheffield, testified that Anderson, at Bonds’ direction, had provided him “the cream” and “the clear.” Sheffield said he had been told the substances weren’t steroids.
But Bonds testified that he had never used banned drugs, telling the grand jury Anderson had only given him flaxseed oil and arthritis balm. Those denials form the crux of the perjury allegations.
After Bonds’ grand jury testimony, federal agents began a wide-ranging investigation of the Giants slugger. In March 2005, Bell testified that Bonds had told her he had used steroids in 1999.
She also told the grand jury that Bonds had given her $80,000 cash to make the down payment on a house in Arizona. Bell said Bonds obtained the money by selling sports memorabilia for cash.
For more than three years, the BALCO probe was directed by U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan. In December 2006, Ryan was among nine U.S. attorneys who were abruptly fired by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Since then, the Bonds probe has been supervised by an acting U.S. attorney, Scott Schools.
Last month another star athlete suspected of lying about her role in BALCO – track and field superstar Marion Jones, sweetheart of the 2000 Sydney Olympics – pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to falsely telling federal agents she had not used banned drugs and making false statements about her participation in a check fraud scheme. After Jones pleaded guilty, BALCO investigators turned their attention back to Bonds.
Bonds joins a long list of celebrities and historic figures accused of perjury, the crime of making a false statement under oath.
Former U.S. State Department official Alger Hiss spent 44 months in prison for lying in a Cold War-era probe of a Communist spy ring. In his 1999 impeachment trial, then-President Bill Clinton was acquitted of perjury in the Monica Lewinsky affair. In March, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of lying to a grand jury in connection with the leak of an undercover CIA operative’s name to news reporters.
But the perjury case that many experts liken to the Bonds case is that of former NBA star Chris Webber, indicted in 2002 after denying under oath that during his college basketball career that he had received money and gifts from a University of Michigan booster. Webber pleaded guilty to criminal contempt, paid a $100,000 fine and was ordered to perform community service rather than be imprisoned.
Steve Fishman, the Detroit lawyer who represented him, said Webber was able to settle the case because the prosecution’s evidence was weak and Webber was a sympathetic defendant.
“The accusation against Webber was that he was not telling the truth about something that occurred when he was a teenager,” Fishman said in an interview last year. “There are miles of differences between allegations that you received gym shoes when you were playing at the University of Michigan versus you received steroids while you were the National League MVP.”
If convicted of perjury, Bonds would be lucky to avoid prison, legal experts said. Technically, the maximum sentence on a conviction for a single count of perjury is five years in prison and 10 years for obstruction of justice. But Patrick Mullin, a criminal defense specialist who practices in New York and New Jersey, said federal sentencing guidelines would call for a term of from 24 to 30 months if Bonds is convicted of all the charges.
“It could go higher,” Mullin said. “This is tough stuff.”
If the Barry Bonds case follows the standard procedure for crimes charged in federal court:
Arraignment: Bonds will be arraigned in court, and a judge probably will read the charges against him and ask whether he wants to plead guilty or not guilty. Bonds could choose to delay entering a plea by asking the judge for an extension.
Plea: If Bonds pleads not guilty, he has the constitutional right to have a trial in front of a jury within 60 days. He also could waive that right and have a trial set for a later date.
Motions: After the arraignment and before the start of trial, prosecutors and Bonds’ lawyers probably will file motions with the judge related to introducing evidence and questioning witnesses at trial.
Trial: If the trial date arrives and Bonds has not accepted a plea agreement or the case has not been thrown out on other grounds, it will be presented to a jury.
Sentence: If convicted on all charges, Bonds could face about 30 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. (Technically, the charges could carry penalties of 30 years or more, but legal experts say that is extremely unlikely.)
What is perjury?
A knowing and deliberate lie, under oath, about an issue “material,” or important, to an investigation.
Barry Bonds on steroids and the scandal
“Let them investigate. Let them. They’ve been doing it this long.”
Feb. 20, 2006, to reporters at spring training
“I think people make up things just to have something to do. If somebody does something good, there has to be a reason why. Why can’t he do it just because he’s talented? I don’t think it’s fair.
Guys work out all year round now. We have personal trainers – we all do. Guys don’t want to go on breaks. The game has changed. … When we came in the game, a second baseman was a 4-foot-2 slap-hitter. Now you have second basemen that hit 40 home runs. I don’t know what they’re feeding these kids now.”
Aug. 25, 2001, to reporters in New York
“You could test me right now and solve that problem real quick. You still have to hit that baseball. You still need hand-eye coordination. I think it’s irrelevant.”
April 5, 2002, to reporters at Pac Bell Park
Bob Costas: “For the record, have you ever used steroids?”
Costas: “Would you ever consider using them under any circumstances?”
Bonds: “No. I don’t have to. I mean, I’m a good enough ballplayer as it is. I don’t need to be any better. I can’t get any better at this age.”
June 13, 2002, HBO’s “On the Record”
“It affects you when this stuff comes into your home. When my son comes up to me and says kids at school are asking him if his father is on drugs, that’s when it bothers me.
My cap has been 71/2 forever. I don’t need to take anything illegal. Why do I need to cheat? I’m already good.”
Sept. 1, 2002, New York Times Magazine
“You know, the part that I lose sleep over is my family … and my family and my kids and what pain – which I say – should I blame you (the media) for it? There’s no facts on Barry Bonds, but should I blame you? Who should I blame? Who should I blame for the things that go on that my kids have to listen to, who should I blame? You know, I don’t. I tell my kids, you know what, just don’t be famous.”
Feb. 2, 2005, to reporters at spring training
Bonds, baseball and BALCO – a chronology
1986 Bonds, listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, breaks into the majors as a 21-year-old rookie with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hits 16 home runs and drives in 48 runs in 113 games.
1990 Bonds wins first Most Valuable Player award.
1992 Bonds wins second MVP.
1993 Peter Magowan, leader of a new San Francisco Giants ownership group, takes over as team president. Magowan’s first move is to sign free agent Bonds to a six-year, $43.75 million contract, then the biggest in baseball history. Bonds wins MVP and Giants win 103 games, but the team misses the playoffs.
1994 Baseball strike shortens the season by 47 games, and the World Series is canceled for the first time in 90 years.
1995 Bonds becomes the first Giant to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season since his father, Bobby Bonds, did so in 1973.
1996 The Giants win approval from San Francisco voters to build a privately financed ballpark at China Basin. Bonds becomes the fourth player in league history to hit 300 home runs and steal 300 bases in a career. He also follows Jose Canseco as the second player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a single season.
1997 Bonds signs a two-year extension worth up to $30 million, giving him the largest annual salary in baseball history. After two straight last-place finishes, the Giants win their division but are swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Florida Marlins.
1998 Bonds starts working out with Greg Anderson, a boyhood friend.
1999 Bonds, playing only 102 games because of injuries, finishes with 34 home runs. He is named Player of the Decade by the Sporting News.
2000 The Giants open Pacific Bell Park on April 11, and Bonds homers in a loss to the Dodgers. The team sets a franchise attendance record and wins its division before losing to the New York Mets in the playoffs. Bonds hits a career-high 49 homers.
Anderson introduces Bonds to Victor Conte, a self-taught scientist who boasts he can propel athletes to peak performance through a personalized regimen of nutritional supplements.
2001 Bonds, now listed at 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds, hits a season-record 73 home runs and wins his fourth National League MVP award, also a record. Bonds also amasses season records for total walks (177) and slugging percentage (.863).
2002 Bonds signs a $90 million, five-year contract with the Giants. He becomes the fourth player in history to hit 600 home runs and the first to be named MVP five times in a career. Still, a World Series ring eludes him as the Giants make it to the Fall Classic but fall to the Anaheim Angels in seven games.
In August, federal agents receive a tip that elite athletes are obtaining illegal steroids from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, a laboratory in Burlingame owned by Conte. An investigation begins.
2003 Giants win division but lose in the playoffs to the Florida Marlins. Bonds becomes the first player with 500 career homers and 500 steals. He is named NL MVP for the sixth time and third year in a row. In August, his father dies at 57.
In September, federal and local agents raid the offices of BALCO and seize containers labeled as steroids, human growth hormone and testosterone. A search of Anderson’s Burlingame home turns up suspected steroids, $60,000 in cash, and documents that indicate performance-enhancing drug use by several athletes, including Bonds.
In the final months of the year, more than 30 athletes testify before a San Francisco grand jury investigating BALCO. Bonds denies he ever took steroids; New York Yankees star Jason Giambi, formerly of the Oakland Athletics, testifies he used several steroids from Anderson.
2004 U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announces the indictment of four men for distributing steroids, including substances known as “the cream” and “the clear,” to athletes: Conte, Anderson, BALCO Vice President James Valente and track coach Remi Korchemny. Athletes who allegedly received drugs are not identified.
In December, The Chronicle reports Bonds told the grand jury that he had used a cream and a clear substance supplied by Anderson but that he didn’t think they were steroids. Bonds wins fourth straight MVP.
2005 Bonds is limited to 14 games after three knee operations. The Giants have a dismal season, finishing 75-87.
In March, The Chronicle reports that Kimberly Bell, a longtime Bonds girlfriend, testified before a federal grand jury in San Francisco that the Giants star told her he began using steroids before the 1999 season.
Bonds continues to work out with Anderson, who eventually pleads guilty to conspiracy to distribute steroids and is sentenced to three months in prison and three months’ home confinement. Conte is sentenced to four months in prison and four months of house arrest for the same crime.
2006 Bonds passes Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time homer list, leaving him behind only Hank Aaron.
A federal grand jury continues investigating whether Bonds committed perjury in 2003 when he denied under oath that he had ever taken steroids. On July 5, Anderson is sent to federal prison for refusing to testify. Anderson is released briefly but ultimately is sent back to prison, where, until Thursday, he had been since November.
Bonds tests positive for amphetamines. At the behest of Commissioner Bud Selig, former Sen. George Mitchell begins an investigation into steroid use in baseball.
Bonds agrees to a one-year, $16 million contract for 2007.
2007 Bonds is selected as a starter in the All-Star Game played in San Francisco but decides to skip the Home Run Derby.
Bonds ties Aaron’s home-run record with No. 755 on Aug. 4 in San Diego. Bonds breaks Aaron’s home-run record with No. 756 on Aug. 7 at AT&T Park.
On Sept. 15 in San Diego, Bonds leaves the game in the third inning with a sprained toe. He’s listed as day-to-day.
On Sept. 21, Bonds writes in his online journal that the Giants told him the previous day that he would not return to the team in 2008. The Giants hold a news conference later that afternoon confirming that Bonds’ 15-year career as a Giant will end at the conclusion of the 2007 season.
On Sept. 26, he plays his last game as a Giant.
Sources: Major League Baseball; Baseball Almanac; Giants
Compiled by Chronicle research librarian Johnny Miller